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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Saving Saturn: A different kind of car collector | Hagerty Media

The most interesting car collection you've never heard of lives in a subdivision just outside Princeton, New Jersey. Nestled between patches of bucolic farmland and aging equestrian stables, in the cool shadow of a nature preserve, the neighborhood looks like any other.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/people/saving-saturn-a-different-kind-of-car-collector/
96 REPLIES 96
MatthewAnderson
Intermediate Driver

Fantastic read! As a former employee of the detail bays of Saturn of Raleigh (2001-2003), I can attest to the loyalty of Saturn customers. Even the salesmen, for the most part, were in love with the brand and grew disappointed when the metal panels, shared platforms, and even Honda motors trickled in. Mega kudos to this girl and her support network.

Geok86
Advanced Driver

The Honda V6 was the only redeeming value for the Vue.
sclin10
Detailer

I have 2 Saturn Vues, a 2003 and a 2008, both bought new. (I also bought a Saturn cap and a 1/18 diecast model in 2003 from the dealer.) They have always been trouble free SUVs. The only problem I've had was the plastic hood opener latch broke on both of them. It's a shame the the brand disappeared with Pontiac and Oldsmobile when GM reorganized.
Bostwick9
Intermediate Driver

I think the same. I have a diecast S Series 2 door as well, in black. The S Series I had got Saturn a sale of an 05 ION [built 04] because that '95 was so solid at 116,000 miles when I bought it. I still have the ION and have had very few problems. It looks like a late model, still.
Plus it was built under the old contract before it was dissolved in Jan 05 at Spring Hill.
Vern
Intermediate Driver

Love it! I am originally from New Jersey and lived in the Princeton area for 2 years. It’s always awesome to see other women who are “car guys”! I’m also excited about seeing young people getting into car culture. Fun story! Thanks!
Nutjob1specia
New Driver

Jessieleigh Freeman, if you're reading this and neither heard/read or member, you might be interested in Saturnfans.com. It may be the largest community of Saturn owners sharing a wealth of free information to anyone.
DavidHolzman
Detailer

What wonderfully quirky characters--both Jessie and Junkyard Barbi.
Saturn would probably still be around if they'd kept the original styling, and had improved the reliability. I had a '93, which was the best looking car I've ever had (if I don't count the '63 Impala), and one of the best looking cars of the last three decades. It was also a lot of fun to drive, although it could have used more power. But it needed a new engine as by 65k it was using a quart every thousand miles; an alternator at 80k, and after 130k I was taking it in every 2-3 months to fix something.
If I could have the original styling with the same handling and more power, I'd buy one.
Geok86
Advanced Driver

If that Saturn was the best (or second best) looking vehicle you’ve owned....No offense, but I feel bad for you.
BobMack
New Driver

Positivity isn't your suit I guess. No offense, but I feel bad for YOU.
spoom
Technician

Perfect example of GM & the UAW teaming up to snatch insolvency from the jaws of victory. Jobs Bank vs paychecks in the bank wasn't too shrewd, but at least they were consistent. Saturn was a failure because it had mainstream GM on it's neck.  

DC
Intermediate Driver

Perhaps no better example of GM’s fall from world leader....
Saturn, the car GM said would sink Honda.

Hahaha
fpolack
New Driver

I bought a new 1994 SL2 sedan, teal with beige interior, and a cool spoiler on the trunk. Loved everything about the car except for two things..the automatic seat belts and the difficult to reach oil filter. Also, It was difficult to get a kid's car seat in and out of the back seat
But i loved the styling and the power that little 4 banger provided. Like many, I didn't like the restyled version. I would have liked the SL2 as a wagon..I believe that came later.
jessieleigh2794
Intermediate Driver

yes, the sw1/sw2 🙂
MATTMERICA
Instructor

My buddy bought a new one when they first hit the market. It was front wheel drive so we would do dough nuts in reverse - some awesome burnouts for a little 4 with FWD lol
MATTMERICA
Instructor

Typical GM lol - the touch of death
Ragster
Intermediate Driver

WOW, good on this young lady for saving this brand of car. Might be cheaper for the environment to run a Saturn than it is a Tesla, seeing as ALL the mining needed for battery components ?
Guitar74
Gearhead

Right you are. But then whatever mining business that the so called enviro friendly politicians are getting a kick back from won't make billions. Ergo, neither will the politician.

Noble1234
New Driver

i remember driving a friend to pick up her new Saturn. salesman took her pciture with a Kodak instant camera and pinned up on a wall with hundreds of others. it was pretty cool.
VancMike
Pit Crew

Yeah, the Saturn TV ad that showed a similar scene always kind of made me a little verklempt....powerful advertising.
jessieleigh2794
Intermediate Driver

i wish i had the chance to do that. buying a saturn from the dealership seems like it would have been a great experience
Lightning1
Detailer

I bought 2 Saturns new. An SL2 and a Vue. The experience was pleasant. The cars were great. Why GM let Saturn die and not Buick eludes me. Just like Pontiac and Olds, Saturn had a fanatic following that only took a few years to gain that from the public. Did Lutz have a head injury? Companies work generations to get that level of public trust and he just pissed it away.
MarveH
Intermediate Driver

The knee-jerk reaction to small cars by most cars guys is usually one word; junk. You hear that about every small car ever made. My cousin had one and it got a flat tire and we never bought a _____ again.
Kudos to this kid finding something she likes and diving in the deep end. I don't find any value placed on a car by an auction house to have much bearing on desirability. Some super expensive cars would be fun to drive but a pain to own. Her Saturns are interesting collectibles for so many reasons; they have a unique story, millions have shared memories of them, and they have their own character. Unlike that super exotic, these cars can still serve their primary purpose on a daily basis and there's a lot to be said for that.
Geok86
Advanced Driver

Great to see another young person into cars, especially a girl....But....SATURN!!! Sorry to all the people who loved them, but every experience I had with driving various models over the years....THEY DESERVED TO DIE!!! Olds and Pontiac should have lived, and Buick should have become a China only company, as they are the reason Buick still exists.
tahend
Detailer

I bet the neighbors lover her obsession.
HotRodGTO
Pit Crew

What about that good lookin' Hearse?
jessieleigh2794
Intermediate Driver

1977 cadillac hearse based off the fleetwood by Superior. only has 70k miles 🙂 just instead of bringing the dead to their place of rest, this one brings the "dead/dying" back to me to be restored
CitationMan
Instructor

The old Cadillac hearse at my local car show has a great bumper sticker: ROOM FOR ONE MORE

Sferre1121
New Driver

Jessie Leigh, you're doing amazing work.  

It's awesome to see young people, especially a young woman into cars.  I've always liked the old Saturn's and almost bought one new. (But they didn't have any manual SCs on the lot, so I bought a Plymouth Laser instead)

I did buy one from my cousin many years later and it was a great car.

Anyway, I'm proud to be from the same state as you.  Keep up the good work!

Rob1
Instructor

Back in the 90,s I bought a Saturn stick sc off a local used car dealer who took it in when they were no longer in fashion i guess heard horror shows of motors and this and that. We had a cottage in the north and when I would get a small break from work and it was just me I would take the Saturn got to say compared to the 3/4 ton pickup back then this little car got unbelievable mileage and it served me well drove it for years on parts runs,smokes,beverages.Kudo,s to this girl she has a passion and not afraid of criticism just going for it.
F360Spider
Detailer

The reason why Saturn died is obvious. They are the most extremely boring cars ever built. Only Casper Milktoast would want one and even then, it's probably just a meh.
Jimboriffic
New Driver

Milquetoast. 

jrb23321
New Driver

Just sent this to my sister. She bought a new SL2, and still has the picture of her and her husband beside the car in the show room when they picked it up. She drove it for years with no problems, and her husband drove it after she bought an Insight. (UGH) When they were done with it I sold it to a friend, and the last time I saw it, it had over 300,000 miles and was going strong. Great story!
Eric
Hagerty Employee

thank you!
okfoz
Intermediate Driver

Leave it to GM to make something special, create a fan base then simply change it to save money. GM has been run by bean counters for so long that I do not think they even care about what people want, it is about the bottom line. As a brand I see GM as failing completely again and will require another bail out.
I admire Chrysler "FCA" for their willingness to not just think outside the Box but to throw the box away. Ford does this on some level with their "Performance Division" which creates the ST & Shelby Editions, but GM really has nothing like this.
GM for too long has not been about making cars people want to drive customers into the dealerships. The Camaro and Corvette are the only exceptions to this and really the Camaro is just ugly and uncomfortable, C8 Corvette is cool tho. Every other car GM makes now is blah, and the performance is blah, and the styling is blah. Even in the 60's John Delorian had to twist arms and make back door deals to get the GTO made. IT was a sad state of things honestly, and GM has gone back into this protection mindset which they fold into themselves, not looking at what customers really want.
Geok86
Advanced Driver

Admire Chrysler?!?! The only reason they still exist, is their partnership with a multitude of others, and the Jeep and Ram brands....otherwise all they have is a minivan, and Charger/Challenger, which are like a million years old in car age....I admit GM is a joke too, but Chrysler is WORSE!!
CT-car-guy
Pit Crew

I had a '97 Saturn SC2. I bought it used. I wanted an American made sporty car with a stick to replace my '89 Dodge Daytona. There was not much available in this category.
The car was smaller inside than I would have liked. When I went to test drive the car, the salesman tried to jump into the passenger side, but could not fit. He was simply too tall and big for the car.
I liked the handling and the peppiness of the car. I liked the idea of the rust proof plastic body. One weird problem it had was that the door gaskets did not work well. When a semi passed you on the highway it felt like someone was hitting you with a compressed air gun. If it was raining, you would get misted.
The car got 35+ MPG. Probably because the engine was designed for fuel economy, it tended to use oil (less piston rings?). You really needed to keep an eye on that. I knew one woman who didn't pay attention and had an engine seize up.
In the end, the car's plastic body clear-coat peeled off making the car look awful. What finally caused me to junk it was the underside of the car got quite rusty. All the brake system needed to be replaced.
JohninNC
Advanced Driver

I helped my elderly neighbor sell his green 2 door... had to drop the price a couple times and it still sat. Low miles, grampa driven slow and easy.... finally sold it CHEAP! If my kids were old enough at the time they might have been sharing a green Saturn! 🙂
acooper529
Intermediate Driver

The Saturn was in many ways just the combination/ morphing of the GM & Saab small cars. Anyone familiar with Saab cars could see the similarities. The suspensions were identical in many ways and resulted in that very tight, comfortable Scandinavian car ride and handling. Much of the (excellent) Saab designed components still exists in the current GM small car line up.

Here is what killed Saturn at the repair shop level.
1, The motors wore out and smoked and were 2-3 times more expensive to rebuild than average.
2. Many of the interior parts/ switches/ etc were straight out of Saab and very expensive.
3.Many normal service & repair parts were big $$$ and hard to get after just a few years.

We had a local Cadillac dealer that had bought out a huge quantity of Saturn inventory. It was a little known thing but allowed us to service these cars way beyond the normal parts availability.
Bostwick9
Intermediate Driver

Saab had nothing to do with the S Series. Any Saab interior parts you're referring to may be found in the L Series which was a conglomeration of Opel/GM parts and based on same platform as the Catera,Opel Vectra B, Saab 9-3 and Saab 9-5. Vauxhall/Opel V6 used in the L made in the UK is expensive to repair.
The ION Supercharged 2.0 shared developed with engineering from Opel, Saab and GM Powertrain NA as was the Ecotec.
S Series parts are unique to the S Series.
The S Series engines consumed oil. They weren't worn out and went on to cover hundreds of thousands of miles. Keeping the oil level up is part of the ownership routine.
Parts are obviously widely available still as the young woman [and my little brother and others on Saturn Fans can attest].
If any morphing was done it was GM US and Opel small cars as even the early '80s J Body was shared around the world and sold as Vauxhall, Holden, Opel and Isuzu.
Saab didn't have anything unique to offer GM but Opel did.
sego
Intermediate Driver

Owned four of them. Two SL2's, and SW2 5 speed manual, and an L series wagon with the V6. Never had a lick of trouble and they were fun to drive. The SW2 was my favorite. Glad to hear there is a fan club out there keeping the little cars alive.
bblhed
Advanced Driver

This was another reminder that there really isn't a segment to the collector hobby that is wrong. It would appear from the comments that this "Orphan" brand might not have a huge collector base but does have a bigger fan base than one might expect. Also count me as a fan, I had two ex girlfriends that had Saturns and I have many happy memories of riding in, driving, and vacationing in those cars.
Bostwick9
Intermediate Driver

They have a great back story, a dedicated following [see: Saturn Fans], unique engineering with their space frame, Saturn dedicated engines and transmissions, distinctive polymer panels, Saturn specific styling and nothing shared with any other GM cars. First new brand to be built in the US since Kaiser -Frazer.
One can see why the other GM divisions were p-oed.
If ever there was an all GM car, it was Saturn. Every dollar, designer, worker, engineer came from GM.
Fascinating story. Love the cars, but an incredible waste of money and talent in the end. GM and the UAW never learned a bloody thing from the experiment.
tvjake2
Pit Crew

Great article, very fun read. Keep it up Jesseleigh, you're doing a great job.
jessieleigh2794
Intermediate Driver

thank you 🙂
Lightning1
Detailer

GM got too complacent making big profits on SUVs. They weren't thinking of the next trend that might be in a down market. Saturn was positioned for that down market and GM just killed it. Why, because they knew the Govt. would not let them die. High profit, low volume cars are fine in a booming market but in a down market (remember 2008) is where Saturn would have shinned.
richsfordsx4
New Driver

WHY?
JerV8Flat4
Pit Crew

Oh, my.

My wife and I bought a new ‘99 sedan with all the options. It was trouble-free and economical, but it was the most bland and uninspiring car we ever owned, and the only car we ever regretted buying.
Jack1955
Pit Crew

Couldn't have said it better myself, "It’s weird"
jessieleigh2794
Intermediate Driver

we are the weirdos mister 🙂